www.thehindu.com | January 28, 2021
Some artistes are broadcasting from home. Others are inviting small audiences home. And one has made a museum home
Work from home is the new normal for many of us. For many artistes, however, home has always been a site for work and contemplation. Artistes who work out of home studios. Musicians who practise at home. Theatre practitioners who begin work on a play at home. For artistes, home is perhaps always an in-between space, a reconciliation between private and public life.
An artiste’s home is also a space for discussion with others and rehearsals and brainstorming. It is where a work of art is born before it reaches the public, while baithaks and home concerts have always been a part of music performance in the country.
Amidst the pandemic, artistes have turned to their homes in a more intense way, bringing the stage into the home so to speak. Some have opened up their homes to host performances for limited audiences. And in the process, the artiste’s home has also become a performance space — an interaction between the inner and outer worlds of the artiste and her art. A space that was perhaps only used by the artiste to create her work is now being shared and extended. In many ways, one could see this activity as the opening up of the private for the public.
For limited audience
Musicians Shubhendra and Saskia Rao have been hosting a series of concerts, ‘Unlock the Music,’ in their Delhi home. All health protocols and social distancing norms are strictly followed, and only around 20 people are allowed. . The concerts are advertised on social media and tickets are sold online on a first-come, first-served basis.
The first concert featured a performance by Dhrupad exponent Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar, who was elated to sing for a live audience. Shubhendra says, “There are barely any monetary gains, as you can imagine from the size of the audience. Both musicians and listeners have been eagerly waiting for live performances, and then there is the unmistakable intimacy of a small concert. This format has also allowed us to meet a new group of listeners.”
During the lockdown, theatre veteran Neelam Mansingh created a new solo-actor play, Black Box. She decided to host performances at her small home theatre in Chandigarh. Ten shows have been held so far. Each performance saw an audience of around 15 members, who sat distanced from each other. The doors and windows were also left open. Mansingh sees this as an event in itself. She reasons, “I think this is a much more natural way of staging a performance, where I invite the public to the space where the performance was conceived, worked upon and created. I find this to be a more meaningful way of sharing my work rather than taking the play to a commercial theatre.”
Home turned into museum
An interesting contrast to the above experiences is the Museum of Goa, an initiative by artist Subodh Kerkar, who invested his savings to create a museum in his home village of Saligão in North Goa. Kerkar conceived the museum as an extension of his home where he could freely meet visitors, often inviting them for an impromptu meal. During the lockdown, the artist decided to move to the museum. He was its sole occupant and audience.
“The whole museum became a home to me. I started living there and produced a lot of work in seclusion. I completed a set of drawings and finished a book for children, besides participating in various webinars and online lectures,” he says. Kerkar also went for little walks in and around the museum, and shared the videos on social media. Many of these videos narrate the history of Saligão. The artist discovered the privacy of home in an otherwise public space. Perhaps these experiences will be the genesis of a new body of art, a truly homemade initiative.
-Prof. Kunal Ray, Assistant Professor – English Literature